After 20 years, W/J’s final chapter at hand |

After 20 years, W/J’s final chapter at hand

Eben Harrell

A nearly 20-year dispute between developers and Pitkin County was resolved yesterday with the approval of a development proposal at the W/J Ranch between Woody Creek and McLain Flats.The agreement approved by commissioners follows years of negotiations between potential W/J developers and the county. A proposal in the late 1990s, denied by the commissioners amid much controversy, called for nearly 800 units of affordable housing on the ranch.Yesterday, the commissioners approved the construction of five free-market homes and two affordable-housing units, in partial exchange for a scattering of conservation easements on the property.”It’s quite extraordinary. A plan that once included 775 units has been whittled down to seven,” W/J planner Stan Clauson said last week. “That’s 1 percent of the original proposal.”The W/J Ranch is split into two sections – an upper and lower bench. The approved proposal includes five free-market lots on the upper bench and two affordable-housing units on the lower parcel. Currently there are 62 affordable-housing units on the lower bench.Only five houses in the 100-acre area were proposed because the ranch is coded RS-20 by the county, which restricts development to one unit per 20 acres. Several conservation easements for the property are also included. Two parcels equaling 40 acres along the Roaring Fork River will be donated to Pitkin County. Another 30-acre parcel on the lower bench will be given to the Aspen Valley Land Trust. And two parcels totaling 86 acres will be maintained as irrigated meadows by the Whitestar Homeowners Association.”If I were to write a novel on W/J, it would be huge,” Commissioner Shellie Roy said. “It’s amazing that we’ve reached the final chapter.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is